Confession time: I'm British. And that means that just two days ago I cast my vote in an historic referendum that — we now know — will take the UK out of the European Union. It's impossible to foresee the political and economic consequences of that decision; half the country is jubilant, the other half is terrified. The consequences for the creative industry are as unknowable as everything else right now.
The Irish Problem For Game Of Thrones
A particularly thorny issue has been Game of Thrones, which is partly filmed in Northern Ireland, part of the UK. It says everything that Ireland's tourist website has a page declaring the country "Game of Thrones territory"! The iconic Haunted Forest, for example, is actually Tollymore Forest Park, in County Down. The Kingsroad is actually the Dark Hedges, a beautiful avenue of beech trees planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. Most notably, the dramatic Mourne Mountains — which inspired C.S. Lewis's Narnia — are the lands north of Winterfell.
With the show filming so heavily in Northern Ireland, it's drawn funds from the European Regional Development Fund. That's where fans have become increasingly concerned. Post-Brexit, could this mean the series will lose valuable funding? Or would it require a change in location? British newspapers feared the worst:
"Without an EU cash injection, its Northern Ireland base may not be so attractive."
Thankfully, a crisis seemed unlikely. In the first place, the UK Prime Minister can only initiate Brexit by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which kicks off a two-year process. Only at the end of those two years will the UK officially leave the European Union. While the UK is in no hurry to invoke Article 50, there is increasing political pressure to get on with it. Still, the fact remains that the Brexit process will take two years. So, we wouldn't expect any effect on Game of Thrones anytime soon. Frankly, with the series down to its last two seasons, I suspect the show will be over before Brexit is complete.
Matters are even more complicated than that. The vote for Brexit was geographically centered on England; Northern Ireland didn't vote for Brexit at all, but instead a majority there voted for Remain. As a result, there's growing political pressure for a referendum in Northern Ireland on whether or not to leave the UK in favor of the EU. That may all come to nothing, or it may just reignite "The Troubles" in Ireland. It's far too soon to tell, but it does caution us not to write off the European Regional Development Fund in Northern Ireland just yet.
But It's Not Even An Issue After All!
Thankfully, HBO has just clarified the matter. They told Entertainment Weekly that, while they do get funding from some regional funds, it's actually been a few years since Game of Thrones tapped into the European Regional Development Fund. In fact, they went so far as to state:
We do not anticipate that the result of the EU Referendum will have any material effect on HBO producing 'Game of Thrones.'
So, for all the chaos going on in the world, there's one thing we can relax about: Brexit hasn't just wrecked Game of Thrones.